BSL-4 Lab Worker - Photo Credit –USAMRIID
Although the United States has officially withdrawn its objections to the publication of Ron Fouchier’s H5N1 ferret research study (see The Biosecurity Debate On H5N1 Research for background on this issue), there remains another bureaucratic obstacle to publication in the form of an export license from the Dutch government.
According to a Radio Netherlands report, the debate will be taken up tomorrow, and there remains considerable opposition to the publication.
A hat tip to Pathfinder on FluTrackers for this link.
Published on : 21 April 2012 - 6:41pm | By Willemien Groot
On Monday, Dutch experts will debate whether or not Dr Ron Fouchier should be allowed to publish the results of his research, which has created a potentially dangerous strain of the H5N1 bird flu virus. The United States biosecurity watchdog has withdrawn its objections to publication. Dutch Deputy Minister for Innovation Henk Bleker, on the other hand, still fears the research could be used by terrorists. Fouchier rejects any ban on publication of his work. A row is in the making.
Fouchier has reportedly not applied for an export license, and has stated that he intends to publish his research with – or without – the sanctioning of his government.
According to a report by CIDRAP NEWS last week (see Fouchier plans to flout Dutch export law, publish H5N1 study), Fouchier could conceivably find himself facing criminal charges if he attempts to publish his data without government permission.
While the U.S. has withdrawn its objections to the publication of Fouchier’s research (and Professor Yoshihiro Kawaoka’s in Wisconsin), and has recently issued new regulations regarding oversight of Dual Use Research of Concern (see U.S. Issues New DURC Oversight Rules), there remain many unresolved bio-security issues surrounding the life sciences and bioengineering fields.
- How are we to handle this brave new world of life sciences, where new viruses and other life forms can be created in the laboratory?
- Who is to decide on what is appropriate, or safe research?
- Who decides what should be published, and who should have access to redacted information?
- What laboratory protocols and protections are necessary for working the the H5N1 virus, and other virulent pathogens?
Regardless of what the Dutch government decides in the near term on the publication of Fouchier’s research, the problem of what to do about future DURC research projects are not going away.
These are serious biosecurity concerns that must be faced, debated, and agreed upon internationally, not just by individual countries.
And better sooner, rather than later.